China proper

China proper, Inner China or the Eighteen Provinces[1] was a term used by Western writers on the Manchu Qing dynasty to express a distinction between the core and frontier regions of China. There is no fixed extent for China proper, as many administrative, cultural, and linguistic shifts have occurred in Chinese history. One definition refers to the original area of Chinese civilization, the Central Plain (in the North China Plain); another to the "Eighteen Provinces" system of the Qing dynasty. There is no direct translation for "China proper" in the Chinese language due to differences in terminology used by the Qing to refer to the regions and the expression is controversial among scholars, particularly in China, due to national territorial claims.

China proper
Traditional Chinese中國本土
Simplified Chinese中国本土
Hanyu Pinyinzhōngguó běntǔ
Literal meaningChina proper
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese中國本部
Simplified Chinese中国本部
Hanyu Pinyinzhōngguó běnbù
Literal meaningChina proper
Second alternative Chinese name
Hanyu Pinyinshíbā xíngshěng
Literal meaningEighteen Provinces
Third alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese關內十八省
Simplified Chinese关内十八省
Hanyu Pinyinguānnèi shíbā shěng
Literal meaningEighteen Provinces inside Shanhaiguan
Fourth alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese內地十八省
Simplified Chinese内地十八省
Hanyu Pinyinnèidì shíbā shěng
Literal meaningEighteen Provinces in mainland
Fifth alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese中原漢地
Simplified Chinese中原汉地
Hanyu Pinyinzhōngyuán hàndì
Literal meaningHan territory in Central Plain
1912 China map from National Geographic
A 1912 map of China and its territories from the National Geographic, include different regions in Chinese Republic. The territories out of China proper painted white in the pink border.

Origin of the concept

It is not clear when the concept of "China proper" in the Western world appeared. However, it is plausible that historians during the age of empires and the fast-changing borders in the eighteenth century, applied it to distinguish China's 18-provinces from its newly acquired properties. This would also apply to Great Britain proper versus the British Empire, which would encompass vast lands overseas. The same would apply to France proper in contrast to the French Empire of the time, which Napoleon managed to expand all the way to Moscow.

According to Harry Harding, the concept can date back to 1827.[2] But as early as in 1795, William Winterbotham adopted this concept in his book. When describing the Chinese Empire under the Qing dynasty, Winterbotham divided it into three parts: China proper, Chinese Tartary, and the States Tributary to China. He adopted the opinions of Du Halde and Grosier and suspected that the name of "China" came from Qin dynasty. He then said: "China, properly so called,... comprehends from north to south eighteen degrees; its extent from east to west being somewhat less..."[3]

However, to introduce China proper, Winterbotham still used the outdated 15-province system of the Ming dynasty, which the Qing dynasty used until 1662. Although Ming dynasty also had 15 basic local divisions, Winterbotham uses the name of Kiang-nan (江南, Jiāngnán) province, which had been called Nan-Zhili (南直隶, Nán-Zhílì) during the Ming dynasty and was renamed to Kiang-nan (i.e., Jiangnan) in 1645, the second year after the Manchu Qing dynasty overthrew the Ming. This 15-province system was gradually replaced by the 18-province system between 1662 and 1667. Using the 15-province system and the name of Kiang-nan Province indicates that the concept of China proper probably had appeared between 1645 and 1662 and this concept may reflect the idea that identifies China as the territory of the former Ming dynasty after the Qing conquest of the Ming.

China Proper 1944
A 1944 map of China Proper, Manchuria (Northeast China), Mongolia, Sinkiang (Xinjiang), and Tibet from the War Information Office propaganda film Why We Fight: The Battle of China. (Note that the outer borders here include several areas formerly claimed by the Republic of China.)

The concept of "China proper" also appeared before this 1795 book. It can be found in The Gentleman's Magazine, published in 1790, and The Monthly Review, published in 1749.[4] In the nineteenth century, the term "China proper" was sometimes used by Chinese officials when they were communicating in foreign languages. For instance, the Qing ambassador to Britain Zeng Jize used it in an English language article, which he published in 1887.[5]

Dulimbai Gurun is the Manchu name for China (中國, Zhongguo; "Middle Kingdom").[6][7][8] After conquering the Ming, the Manchu Qing identified their state as "China" (Zhongguo), and referred to it as "Dulimbai Gurun" in Manchu. The Manchu Qing Emperors equated the lands of the Qing state (including both "China proper" and present day Manchuria, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Tibet and other areas as "China" in both the Chinese and Manchu languages, defining China as a multi ethnic state, rejecting the idea that China only meant Han areas in "China proper", proclaiming that both Han and non-Han peoples were part of "China", using "China" to refer to the Qing in official documents, international treaties, and foreign affairs, and the "Chinese language" (Dulimbai gurun i bithe) referred to Chinese, Manchu, and Mongol languages, and the term "Chinese people" (中國人, Zhongguo ren; Manchu: Dulimbai gurun i niyalma) referred to all Han, Manchus, and Mongol subjects of the Qing.[9]

When the Qing conquered Dzungaria in 1759, they proclaimed that the new land was absorbed into "China" (Dulimbai Gurun) in a Manchu language memorial.[10][11][12] The Qing expounded on their ideology that they were bringing together the "outer" non-Han Chinese like the Inner Mongols, Eastern Mongols, Oirat Mongols, and Tibetans together with the "inner" Han Chinese, into "one family" united in the Qing state, showing that the diverse subjects of the Qing were all part of one family, the Qing used the phrase "Zhong Wai Yi Jia" (中外一家) or "Nei Wai Yi Jia" (內外一家, "interior and exterior as one family"), to convey this idea of "unification" of the different peoples.[13] A Manchu language version of a treaty with the Russian Empire concerning criminal jurisdiction over bandits called people from the Qing as "people of the Central Kingdom (Dulimbai Gurun)" [14]

In the Manchu official Tulisen's Manchu language account of his meeting with the Torghut Mongol leader Ayuki Khan, it was mentioned that while the Torghuts were unlike the Russians, the "people of the Central Kingdom" (dulimba-i gurun; 中國, Zhongguo) were like the Torghut Mongols, and the "people of the Central Kingdom" referred to the Manchus.[15]

While the Manchu Qing sought used China (Zhongguo) to describe non-Han areas, however some Han scholar-officials opposed the Qing Manchu Emperor's use of Zhongguo to refer to non-Han areas, using Zhongguo to mark a distinction between the culturally Han Chinese areas and the territory newly brought into the Manchu Qing empire. In the early 19th century, Wei Yuan’s Shengwuji (Military History of the Qing Dynasty) calls the inner Asian polities guo, while the seventeen provinces of the traditional heartland, that is, "China proper," and three eastern provinces of Manchuria are called "Zhongguo."[16] Some Han Chinese Ming loyalists refused to use Zhongguo to refer to areas outside the borders of the Ming Empire such as outer Mongolia, in effect refusing to acknowledge the Qing state.

The Manchu Qing referred to the Han Chinese inhabited 18 provinces as "nèidì shíbā shěng" (內地十八省), which meant the "interior region eighteen provinces", or abbreviated it as "nèidì" (內地), "interior region" and also as "jùnxiàn" (郡县), while they referred to the non-Han areas of China such as the Northeast, Outer Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Tibet as "wàifān" (外藩) which means "outer feudatories" or "outer vassals", or as "fānbù" (藩部, "feudatory region"). These waifan were fully subjected to and governed by the Qing government and were considered part of the China (Zhongguo), unlike wàiguó (外國, "outer/foreign countries") like Korea, Vietnam, and the Ryukyus, who paid tribute to the Qing but were not part of China.

Political use

In the early 20th century, series of Sino-Japanese conflict had raised Chinese people's concern for national unity, and the concept of a unified, undivided Chinese nation became more popular among Chinese scholars. On Jan 1, 1939, Gu Jiegang published his article "The term 'China proper' should be abolished immediately",[17] which argued that the widely accepted area covered by "China proper" is not the actual territory of any of the Chinese dynasties. Gu further theorized that "中国本部",[18] the Chinese and Japanese term equal to "China proper" at the time, actually originated from Japan and was translated into "China proper", hence the concept of "China proper" was developed by Japanese people, and it had became a tool to divide Chinese people, making way for Japanese invasion of Mongolia, Manchuria, and all parts of China. Gu's article sparked a heated debate on the definition and origin of "Zhonghua minzu",[19][20] which contributed to unifying Chinese people in the Second Sino-Japanese war, and to a extent shaped the later established concept of Zhonghua minzu.


Today, China proper is a controversial concept in China itself, since the current official paradigm does not contrast the core and the periphery of China. There is no single widely used term corresponding to it in the Mandarin language.

The separation of China into a "China proper" dominated by Han Chinese and one or more "Other Chinas" of ethnic minorities impugns on the legitimacy of China's current borders, which is based on the succession of states principle. According to Sinologist Colin Mackerras, foreign governments have generally accepted Chinese claims over its minority areas, because to redefine a country's territory every time it underwent a change of regime would cause endless instability and warfare. Also, he asks, "if the boundaries of the Qing were considered illegitimate, why should it go back to the much smaller Ming in preference to the quite extensive Tang dynasty boundaries?"[21]


Ming foreign relations 1580
The approximate extent of China proper during the late Ming dynasty, the last Han Chinese dynasty.
China Proper
The Eighteen Provinces of China proper in 1875, before Taiwan's separation from Fujian in 1885 and its annexation by Japan in 1895.

There is no fixed extent for China proper, as it is used to express the contrast between the core and frontier regions of China from multiple perspectives: historical, administrative, cultural, and linguistic.

Historical perspective

One way of thinking about China proper is to refer to ancient Han Chinese dynasties. Chinese civilization developed from a core region in the North China Plain, and expanded outwards over several millennia, conquering and assimilating surrounding peoples, or being conquered and influenced in turn. Some dynasties, such as the Han and Tang dynasties, were particularly expansionist, extending far into Central Asia, while others, such as the Jin and Song dynasties, were forced to relinquish the North China Plain itself to rivals from Northeastern and Central Asia.

The Ming Dynasty was the last Han Chinese dynasty and second-last imperial dynasty to rule China. It governed fifteen administrative entities, which included thirteen provinces (Chinese: 布政使司; pinyin: Bùzhèngshǐ Sī) and two "directly-governed" areas. After the Manchu-founded Qing Dynasty succeeded the Ming Dynasty, the Qing court decided to continue to use the Ming administrative system to rule over former Ming lands, without applying it to other domains within the Qing Dynasty, namely Manchuria, Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Tibet. The 15 administrative units of the Ming Dynasty underwent minor reforms to become the Eighteen Provinces (一十八行省; Yīshíbā Xíngshěng, or 十八省; Shíbā Shěng) of China proper under the Qing Dynasty. It was these eighteen provinces that early Western sources referred to as China proper.

There are some minor differences between the extent of Ming China and the extent of the eighteen provinces of Qing China: for example, some parts of Manchuria were a Ming possession belonging to the Ming province of Liaodong (now Liaoning); however, the Qing conquered it before the rest of China and did not put the region back into the provinces of China proper. On the other hand, Taiwan was a new acquisition of the Qing Dynasty, and it was put into Fujian, one of the provinces of China proper. Eastern Kham in Greater Tibet was added to Sichuan, while much of what now constitutes northern Burma was added to Yunnan.

Near the end of the Qing Dynasty, there was an effort to extend the province system of China proper to the rest of the empire. Taiwan was made into a separate province in 1885, but was ceded to Japan in 1895. Xinjiang was reorganized into a province in 1884. Manchuria was split into the three provinces of Fengtian, Jilin and Heilongjiang in 1907. There was discussion to do the same in Tibet, Kokonor, Inner Mongolia, and Outer Mongolia, but these proposals were not put to practice, and these areas were outside the province system of China proper when the Qing Dynasty fell in 1912.

The Provinces of the Qing Dynasty were:

Eighteen provinces
Postal Pinyin Chinese Postal Pinyin Chinese Postal Pinyin Chinese
Anhwei Ānhuī 安徽省 Hunan Húnán 湖南省 Kweichow Guìzhōu 貴州省
Chekiang Zhèjiāng 浙江省 Kansu Gānsù 甘肅省 Shansi Shānxī 山西省
Chihli Zhílì 直隸省 Kiangsu Jiāngsū 江蘇省 Shantung Shāndōng 山東省
Fukien Fújiàn 福建省 Kiangsi Jiāngxī 江西省 Shensi Shǎnxī 陝西省
Honan Hénán 河南省 Kwangtung Guǎngdōng 廣東省 Szechwan Sìchuān 四川省
Hupeh Húběi 湖北省 Kwangsi Guǎngxī 廣西省 Yunnan Yúnnán 雲南省
Additional provinces in late Qing dynasty
Fengtien Fèngtiān 奉天省 Heilungkiang Hēilóngjiāng 黑龍江省 Kirin Jílín 吉林省
Sinkiang Xīnjiāng 新疆省

Some of the revolutionaries who sought to overthrow Qing rule desired to establish a state independent of the Qing Dynasty within the bounds of the Eighteen Provinces, as evinced by the Eighteen-Star Flag they used. Others favoured the replacement of the entire Qing Dynasty by a new republic, as evinced by the Five-Striped Flag they used. Some revolutionaries, such as Zou Rong, used the term Zhongguo Benbu (中国本部) which roughly identifies the Eighteen Provinces.[22] When the Qing Dynasty fell, the abdication decree of the Qing Emperor bequeathed the entire Empire to the newborn Republic of China, and the latter idea was therefore adopted by the new republic as the principle of Five Races Under One Union, with Five Races referring to the Han Chinese, Manchus, Mongols, Muslims (Uyghurs, Hui etc.) and Tibetans. The Five-Striped Flag was adopted as the national flag, and the Republic of China viewed itself as a single state encompassing all five regions handed down by the Qing Dynasty. The People's Republic of China, which was founded in 1949 and replaced the Republic of China on the mainland, has continued to claim essentially the same borders, with the only major exception being the recognition of independent Mongolia. As a result, the concept of China proper fell out of favour in China.

The Eighteen Provinces of the Qing Dynasty still exist, but their boundaries have changed. Beijing and Tianjin were eventually split from Hebei (renamed from Zhili), Shanghai from Jiangsu, Chongqing from Sichuan, Ningxia autonomous region from Gansu, and Hainan from Guangdong. Guangxi is now an autonomous region. The provinces that the late Qing dynasty set up have also been kept: Xinjiang became an autonomous region under the People's Republic of China, while the three provinces of Manchuria now have somewhat different borders, with Fengtian renamed as Liaoning.

When the Qing Dynasty fell, Republican Chinese control of Qing territory, including of those generally considered to be in "China proper", was tenuous, and practically nonexistent in Tibet and Outer Mongolia (since 1922), which were controlled by governments that declared independence. The Republic of China subdivided Inner Mongolia in its time on the mainland, although the People's Republic of China later joined Mongol-inhabited territory into a single autonomous region. The PRC joined the Qamdo area into the Tibet area (later the Tibet Autonomous Region). Nationalist China was forced to acknowledge the independence of Mongolia (former Outer Mongolia) and Tannu Uriankhai (now part of Russia as The Tyva Republic), in 1945.

Ethnic perspective

China proper is often associated with the Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group of China and with the extent of the Chinese languages, an important unifying element of the Han Chinese ethnicity.

However, Han Chinese areas in the present day do not correspond well to the Eighteen Provinces of the Qing Dynasty. Much of southwestern China, such as areas in the provinces of Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guizhou, was part of successive Han Chinese dynasties, including the Ming Dynasty and the Eighteen Provinces of the Qing Dynasty. However, these areas were and continue to be populated by various non-Han Chinese minority groups, such as the Zhuang, the Miao people, and the Bouyei. Conversely, today Han Chinese form the majority in most of Manchuria, much of Inner Mongolia, many areas in Xinjiang and scattered parts of Tibet, not least due to the expansion of Han Chinese settlement encouraged by the late Qing dynasty, the Republic of China, and the People's Republic of China.

Ethnic Han Chinese is not synonymous with speakers of the Chinese language. Many non-Han Chinese ethnicities, such as the Hui and Manchu, are essentially monolingual in Chinese, but do not identify as Han Chinese. The Chinese language itself is also a complex entity, and should be described as a family of related languages rather than a single language if the criterion of mutual intelligibility is used to classify its subdivisions.

In polls a slim majority of the people of Taiwan call themselves "Taiwanese" only with the rest identifying as "Taiwanese and Chinese" or "Chinese" only. 98% of the people of Taiwan are descendants of immigrants from China since the 1600s, but the inclusion of Taiwan in China, or in the China proper, is still a controversial subject. See History of Taiwan and Political status of Taiwan for more information.

China ling 90

The approximate extent of Chinese-speaking regions, denoted in light yellow and light green. Although Chinese is spoken elsewhere, only mainland China and Taiwan are shown.[Note 1]

Ethnolinguistic map of China 1983

The approximate extent of the Han Chinese ethnicity, denoted in brown. Scattered distribution is denoted by circles. Although Han Chinese also live elsewhere, only mainland China and Taiwan are shown.[Note 2]

See also


  1. ^ Source: United States Central Intelligence Agency, 1990. The map shows the distribution of linguistic groups according to the historical majority ethnic groups by region. Note this does not represent the current distribution due to age-long internal migration and assimilation.
  2. ^ Source: United States Central Intelligence Agency, 1983. The map shows the distribution of ethnolinguistic groups according to the historical majority ethnic groups by region. Note this does not represent the current distribution due to age-long internal migration and assimilation.



  1. ^ "Glossary – China. Library of Congress Country Studies". Library of Congress. Used broadly to mean China within the Great Wall, with its eighteen historic provinces. Divisible into two major, sharply contrasting regions, Northern China and Southern China. The dependencies on the north and west – Manchuria (now usually referred to as Northeast China), Mongolia, Xizang (Tibet), and Xinjiang or Chinese Turkestan – were known in the imperial era as Outer China.
  2. ^ Harry Harding, "The Concept of 'Greater China': Themes, Variations, and Reservations", in The China Quarterly, 136 (December1993), pp. 660–686. [1]
  3. ^ Winterbotham, William (1795). An Historical, Geographical, and Philosophical View of the Chinese Empire..., London: Printed for, and sold by the editor; J. Ridgway; and W. Button. (pp. 35–37: General Description of the Chinese Empire → China Proper→ 1. Origin of its Name, 2. Extent, Boundaries, &c.)
  4. ^ Copyright has passed, "Full View" available through Google Books.
  5. ^ Marquis Tseng, "China: The Sleep and the Awakening", The Asiatic Quarterly Review, Vol. III 3 (1887), p. 4.
  6. ^ Hauer 2007, p. 117.
  7. ^ Dvořák 1895, p. 80.
  8. ^ Wu 1995, p. 102.
  9. ^ Zhao 2006, pp. 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14.
  10. ^ Dunnell 2004, p. 77.
  11. ^ Dunnell 2004, p. 83.
  12. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 503.
  13. ^ Dunnell 2004, pp. 76–77.
  14. ^ Cassel 2012, pp. 44, 205.
  15. ^ Perdue 2009, p. 218.
  16. ^ Joseph Esherick, "How the Qing Became China," in Joseph W. Esherick, Hasan Kayali and Eric Van Young, ed., Empire to Nation: Historical Perspectives on the Making of the Modern World (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006 ISBN 0742540308): 233.
  17. ^ 颉刚, 顾. ""中国本部"一名亟应废弃" (PDF). 《益世报》.
  18. ^ "中国本土".
  19. ^ ""中华民族是一个"?——追记抗战初期一场关于中国是不是多民族国家的辩论". 29 December 2008.
  20. ^ 葛, 兆光 (27 February 2017). "徘徊到纠结——顾颉刚关于"中国"与"中华民族"的历史见解".
  21. ^ Mackerras, Colin (2012). "Han-minority relations". In Gries, Peter Hays (ed.). State and Society in 21st Century China: Crisis, Contention and Legitimation. Psychology Press. pp. 219–220.
  22. ^ Zou, Rong (1903). "Chapter 4". The Revolutionary Army.


External links

Autumn Offensive of 1947 in Northeast China

The Autumn Offensive of 1947 in Northeast China was a series of battles initiated by the communists against the nationalists during the Chinese Civil War after World War II.

Banners of Inner Mongolia

A banner (Chinese: 旗; pinyin: qí) is an administrative division of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China, corresponding to the county level.

Banners were first used during the Qing Dynasty, which organized the Mongols into banners except those who belonged to the Eight Banners. Each banner had sumu as nominal subdivisions. In Inner Mongolia, several banners made up a league. In the rest, including Outer Mongolia, northern Xinjiang and Qinghai, Aimag (Аймаг) was the largest administrative division. While it restricted the Mongols from crossing banner borders, the dynasty protected Mongolia from population pressure from China proper.

There were 49 banners and 24 tribes during the Republic of China.Today, banners are a county level division in the Chinese administrative hierarchy. There are 49 banners in total.

Battle of Dartsedo

The Battle of Dartsedo was fought on January 28, 1701 between the Qing and Tibetan armies over the control of the strategic border town of Dartsedo.

The town of Dartsedo was an important trade center between Tibet and China proper, and for centuries its importance lay on the tea-horse trade. Sino-Tibetan trade in Dartsedo continued to expand as the demand for Chinese products in Tibet grew. The Tibetan interest in Dartsedo led to a growing official presence in the town and taking advantage of the anarchy that created after the fall of the Ming dynasty, the Tibetans took control of the town and stationed a garrison and officials in it.After the Qing dynasty had consolidated its hold on China the Kangxi Emperor maned official displays of his sovereignty over Dartsedo but he allowed the Tibetans to maintain de facto control of the town. Tensions began to grow in 1698, when the Chinese General Yue Shenglong began a military buildup in the town of Muya, west of Dartsedo. General Yue had warned to the court the importance of Dartsedo giving the fact that it occupied an important position in the road between Chengdu and Lhasa he recommended its capture. The next year Changcejilie, the Tibetan official responsible for the area, countered Yue's move by sending thousand of soldiers to cover the route between Yazhou and Dartsedo.

Yue's aggressive stance had been opposed by the Governor of Sichuan, Yu Yangzhi, and both officials were suspended by the Emperor after an inquiry that found them guilty of illicit enrichment. Yue successor, Tang Xishun, put Xierda in charge of military operations in Sichuan. Xierda petitioned the Emperor to put Changcejilie under arrest for the murder of a local chief, and he recommended the transfer of the garrison of Hualin to Dartsedo.The Emperor agreed to Xierda's recommendations and in an edict addressed to the Tibetan regent, Desi Sangye Gyatso, he clearly claimed sovereignty over Dartsedo and demanded its surrender to the Qing forces as well as Changcejilie's delivery.The Tibetans resisted the Qing garrison of Hualin and killed the soldiers who were paving a road and pulled down bridges to try to slow down their advance. The Emperor resolved to solve the problem with war and sent 2000 Manchu Bannermen from Jingzhou, in Hubei. The Manchus attacked Dartsedo on January 28, striking at the town from 3 different directions. Tibetan resistance was overpowered and the Qing force soon had control of the town. The defeat of the Tibetan garrison was followed by a slaughter of almost all of the Tibetan men in Dartsedo.Later in 1720 Tibet became ruled by the Qing after the Chinese expedition to Tibet of that year.

Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs

The Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs, or Xuanzheng Yuan (Chinese: 宣政院; pinyin: Xuānzhèngyuàn; literally: 'Court for the Spread of Governance') was a government agency and top-level administrative department set up in Khanbaliq (modern Beijing) that supervised Buddhist monks in addition to managing the territory of Tibet during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) established by Kublai Khan. It was originally set up in 1264 as an autonomous office named Zongzhi Yuan (simplified Chinese: 总制院; traditional Chinese: 總制院; pinyin: Zǒngzhìyuàn) or the Bureau of General Regulation, before it was renamed in 1288, which was named after the Xuanzheng Hall where Tibetan envoys were received in the Tang dynasty. In the Mongol Empire, Tibet was managed by the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs, separate from the other provinces of the Yuan dynasty such as those governed the former Song dynasty of China, but still under the administrative rule of the Yuan. While no modern equivalents remain, the political functions of the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs might have been analogous to the India Office in London during the British Raj. Besides holding the title of Imperial Preceptor or Dishi, Drogön Chögyal Phagpa, the fifth leader of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism, was concurrently named the director of the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs. One of the department's purposes was to select a dpon-chen ('great administrator', a civilian administrator who governed Tibet when Sakya Lama was away), usually appointed by the lama and confirmed by the Mongol emperor in Beijing. Tibetan Buddhism was not only practiced within the capital Beijing but throughout the country. Apart from Tibetan affairs, the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs managed the entire Buddhist clergy throughout the realm (whether they were Han Chinese, Tibetan or Korean etc.), and supervised all temples, monasteries, and other Buddhist properties in the empire, at least in name. According to scholar Evelyn Rawski, it supervised 360 Buddhist monasteries. To emphasize its importance for Hangzhou, capital of the former Southern Song dynasty and the largest city in the Yuan realm, a branch (行, Xing, "acting") Xuanzheng Yuan was established in that city in 1291, although Tibetan Buddhism took public or official precedence over Han Chinese Buddhism.The Lifan Yuan (also known as the Board for the Administration of Outlying Regions and Office of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs etc.) established by the Manchus was roughly a Qing dynasty version of Xuanzheng Yuan, instituted by the Yuan state for administering affairs beyond the borders of China proper.

Chuang Guandong

Chuang Guandong (simplified Chinese: 闯关东; traditional Chinese: 闖關東; pinyin: Chuǎng Guāndōng; IPA: [ʈʂʰwàŋ kwán.tʊ́ŋ]; literally "Crashing into Guandong" with Guandong being an older name for Manchuria) is descriptive of the rush of Han Chinese into Manchuria, mainly from the Shandong Peninsula and Zhili, during the hundred-year period beginning in the last half of the 19th century. Previously, this region was outside China proper, but was sometimes under direct control and/or indirect influence, of the ruling Chinese dynasty. During the first two centuries of the Manchu Qing Dynasty, this part of China, the traditional homeland of the ruling Manchus, was, with few exceptions, closed to settlement by Han Chinese civilians, with only certain Manchu Bannermen, Mongol Bannermen, and Chinese Bannermen allowed in. The region, now known as Northeast China, now has an overwhelmingly Han population.

Greater China

Greater China is an informal term used to refer a geographic area that shares commercial and cultural ties dominated by ethnic Han Chinese - for instance Chinese-language television, film and music entertainment. The precise area is not always entirely clear, but normally encompasses mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan - with Singapore, although Singapore is not as geographically close to mainland China as the rest of the countries included nor has it ever politically been a part of it. Singapore is often included in greater China as the Westerners do not have sufficient education to know otherwise.

Hexi Corridor

Hexi Corridor (Chinese: 河西走廊; pinyin: Héxī Zǒuláng; Wade–Giles: Ho2-hsi1 Tsou3-lang2, Xiao'erjing: حْسِ ظِوْلاْ, IPA: /xɤ˧˥ɕi˥ tsoʊ˨˩˦lɑŋ˧˥/) or Gansu Corridor refers to the historical route in Gansu province of China. As part of the Northern Silk Road running northwest from the bank of the Yellow River, it was the most important route from North China to the Tarim Basin and Central Asia for traders and the military. The corridor is a string of oases along the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. To the south is the high and desolate Tibetan Plateau and to the north, the Gobi Desert and the grasslands of Outer Mongolia. At the west end the route splits in three, going either north of the Tian Shan or south on either side of the Tarim Basin. At the east end are mountains around Lanzhou before one reaches the Wei River valley and China proper.

Inner Asia

Inner Asia refers to regions within East Asia and North Asia that are today part of Western China, Mongolia and eastern Russia. It overlaps with some definitions of Central Asia, mostly the historical ones, but certain regions of Inner Asia (such as Northeast China) are not considered a part of Central Asia by any of its definitions. Inner Asia may be considered as the "frontier" of China, and as bounded by East Asia, which consists of China, Japan, and Korea.The extent of Inner Asia was seen differently in different periods. "Inner Asia" is sometimes contrasted to "China Proper", that is, the original provinces, those with majority Han Chinese populations. In 1800 it consisted of four main areas, namely Manchuria (modern Northeast China and Outer Manchuria), Mongolia (Inner and Outer), Xinjiang and Tibet. These areas had been recently conquered by the Qing dynasty but were governed through different administrative structure not as regular provinces during most of the Qing period. The Qing government agency known as the Lifan Yuan was established to supervise the empire's Inner Asian regions.

Jiaqing Emperor

The Jiaqing Emperor (13 November 1760 – 2 September 1820), personal name Yongyan, was the seventh emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, and the fifth Qing emperor to rule over China proper, from 1796 to 1820. He was the 15th son of the Qianlong Emperor. During his reign, he prosecuted Heshen, the corrupt favourite of his father, and attempted to restore order within the Qing Empire and curb the smuggling of opium into China.

Manchuria under Ming rule

Manchuria under Ming rule refers to the domination of the Ming dynasty over Manchuria, including today's Northeast China and Outer Manchuria. The Ming rule of Manchuria began with its conquest of Manchuria in the late 1380s after the fall of the Mongol Yuan dynasty, and reached its peak in the early 15th century with the establishment of the Nurgan Regional Military Commission, but the Ming power waned considerably in Manchuria after that. Starting in the 1580s, a Jianzhou Jurchen chieftain named Nurhaci (1558–1626), began to take control of most of Manchuria over the next several decades, and the Qing dynasty established by his son would eventually conquer the Ming and take control of China proper.

North China

North China (simplified Chinese: 华北; traditional Chinese: 華北; pinyin: Huáběi; literally "China's north") is a geographical region of China, lying North of the Qinling Huaihe Line.

The heartland of North China is the North China Plain, or the Yellow River Plain. North China is usually restricted to the northern part of China proper (inner China and excludes Xinjiang and often Manchuria and Northeast China.

The vast region in China from the Yellow River Valley south to the Yangtze River was the centre of Chinese empires and home to Confucian civilization. Historically, the language used in this area was Ancient Chinese of the Huaxia, Old Chinese of the Shang, Zhou and Han dynasties. In prehistory and early history, the plain (Henan in particular) is considered the origin of Chinese civilization in official Chinese history.

Rice domestication originated in this area at least 9000 years ago, although later on in Chinese history, cultivation of wheat took over as the soils became leeched with the arrivals of the Mongolians and Manchurians from the North, which greatly influenced the area culturally, politically, linguistically and genetically, while earlier scions and their descendants migrated South of the Yangtze River to flee from the invasion of the barbarians. Refugees have fled the area since the collapse of the Han dynasty established by Qinshihuang, especially the Royalty. Imperialty, as well as families of soldiers which formed the Hakka migration, in order to escape persecutions from the new dynasties of the barbarians.

In modern times, the area has shifted in terms of linguistic, cultural, socio-political, economic and genetic composition. Nowadays unique embracing a North Chinese culture, it is heavily influenced by Marxism, Communism, Leninism, Soviet systems of farming while preserving a Traditional Chinese indigenous culture. The region has been cultivating wheat, and most inhabitants here nowadays speak variants of Northern Chinese languages such as the standard (Mandarin), which includes Beijing dialect, which is largely the basis of Standard Chinese (Mandarin), the official language of the People's Republic of China (PRC), and its cousin variants. Jin Chinese and Mongolian are also widely spoken due to the political and cultural history of the area. Other than the British Colony of Hong Kong, the revival of Shanghai as financial center, the old imperial city of the Purple Forbidden Citadel of China's Last 24 Emperors known by Westerners as Peking, now modernized as Beijing City, this is the ancient and historical region which remains truly at the heart of Chinese civilisation. It remains the political, military, and cultural center of the People's Republic of China.

Qing dynasty

The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last imperial dynasty of China. It was established in 1636, and ruled China proper from 1644 to 1912. It was preceded by the Ming dynasty and succeeded by the Republic of China. The Qing multi-cultural empire lasted for almost three centuries and formed the territorial base for modern China. It was the fifth largest empire in world history. The dynasty was founded by the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan in Manchuria. In the late sixteenth century, Nurhaci, originally a Ming Jianzhou Guard vassal, began organizing "Banners", military-social units that included Manchu, Han, and Mongol elements. Nurhaci formed the Manchu clans into a unified entity. By 1636, his son Hong Taiji began driving Ming forces out of the Liaodong Peninsula and declared a new dynasty, the Qing.

In an unrelated development, peasant rebels led by Li Zicheng conquered the Ming capital, Beijing, in 1644. Rather than serve them, Ming general Wu Sangui made an alliance with the Manchus and opened the Shanhai Pass to the Banner Armies led by the regent Prince Dorgon. He defeated the rebels and seized the capital. Resistance from the Southern Ming and the Revolt of the Three Feudatories led by Wu Sangui delayed the Qing conquest of China proper by nearly four decades. The conquest was only completed in 1683 under the Kangxi Emperor reign (1661–1722). The Ten Great Campaigns of the Qianlong Emperor from the 1750s to the 1790s extended Qing control into Inner Asia. The early Qing rulers maintained their Manchu customs, and while their title was Emperor, they used "Bogd khaan" when dealing with the Mongols and they were patrons of Tibetan Buddhism. They governed using Confucian styles and institutions of bureaucratic government and retained the imperial examinations to recruit Han Chinese to work under or in parallel with Manchus. They also adapted the ideals of the tributary system in dealing with neighboring territories.

During the Qianlong Emperor reign (1735–1796) the dynasty reached its apogee, but then began its initial decline in prosperity and imperial control. The population rose to some 400 millions, but taxes and government revenues were fixed at a low rate, virtually guaranteeing eventual fiscal crisis. Corruption set in, rebels tested government legitimacy, and ruling elites failed to change their mindsets in the face of changes in the world system. Following the Opium Wars, European powers imposed "unequal treaties", free trade, extraterritoriality and treaty ports under foreign control. The Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864) and the Dungan Revolt (1862–1877) in Central Asia led to the deaths of some 20 million people, most of them due to famines caused by war. In spite of these disasters, in the Tongzhi Restoration of the 1860s, Han Chinese elites rallied to the defense of the Confucian order and the Qing rulers. The initial gains in the Self-Strengthening Movement were destroyed in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1895, in which the Qing lost its influence over Korea and the possession of Taiwan. New Armies were organized, but the ambitious Hundred Days' Reform of 1898 was turned back in a coup by the conservative Empress Dowager Cixi. When the Scramble for Concessions by foreign powers triggered the violently anti-foreign "Boxers", the foreign powers invaded China, Cixi declared war on them, leading to defeat and the flight of the Imperial Court to Xi'an.

After agreeing to sign the Boxer Protocol, the government initiated unprecedented fiscal and administrative reforms, including elections, a new legal code, and abolition of the examination system. Sun Yat-sen and other revolutionaries competed with constitutional monarchists such as Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao to transform the Qing Empire into a modern nation. After the deaths of Cixi and the Guangxu Emperor in 1908, the hardline Manchu court alienated reformers and local elites alike by obstructing social reform. The Wuchang Uprising on 11 October 1911, led to the Xinhai Revolution. General Yuan Shikai negotiated the abdication of Puyi, the last emperor, on 12 February 1912.

Qing dynasty in Inner Asia

The Qing dynasty in Inner Asia was the expansion of the Qing dynasty's realm in Inner Asia in the 17th and the 18th century AD, including both Inner and Outer Mongolia, Manchuria, Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang. Wars were fought primarily against the Northern Yuan dynasty (before 1636) and the Dzungar Khanate (1687–1758). Even before the conquest of China proper (see Qing conquest of the Ming), the Manchus had controlled Manchuria (modern Northeast China as well as Outer Manchuria) and Inner Mongolia, with the latter being previously controlled by the Mongols under Ligdan Khan. After suppressing the Revolt of the Three Feudatories and the conquest of Taiwan as well as ending the Sino-Russian border conflicts in the 1680s, the Dzungar–Qing War broken out. This eventually led to Qing conquests of Outer Mongolia, Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang. All of them became part of the Qing Empire and were garrisoned by Qing forces, but they were governed through several different types of administrative structure and also retained many of their existing institutions. Furthermore, they were not governed as regular provinces (until Xinjiang and Manchuria were turned into provinces in late Qing), but instead were supervised by the Lifan Yuan, a Qing government agency that oversaw the empire's frontier regions.

Viceroy of Huguang

The Viceroy of Huguang, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General of Hubei and Hunan Provinces and the Surrounding Areas; Overseeing Military Affairs, Food Production; Director of Civil Affairs, was one of eight regional Viceroys in China proper during the Qing dynasty. The Viceroy of Huguang had jurisdiction over Hubei and Hunan provinces, which were previously a single province called "Huguang Province" in the Ming dynasty, hence the name "Huguang".

Viceroy of Min-Zhe

The Viceroy of Min-Zhe, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General of Taiwan, Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces and Surrounding Areas Overseeing Military Affairs and Food Production, Manager of Waterways, Director of Civil Affairs, was one of eight Viceroys in China proper during the Qing dynasty. The "Zhe" refers to Zhejiang Province while "Min" is the abbreviation of Fujian Province. Taiwan was also under the Viceroy's control until after the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki.

Viceroy of Sichuan

The Viceroy of Sichuan, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General of Sichuan Province and the Surrounding Areas Overseeing Military Affairs and Food Production, Director of Civil Affairs, was one of eight regional viceroys in China proper during the Qing dynasty. As its name suggests, the Viceroy of Sichuan had control over Sichuan (Szechuan) Province, as well as modern Chongqing Municipality, which was split off in 1997.

Viceroy of Yun-Gui

The Viceroy of Yun-Gui, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General of Yunnan and Guizhou Provinces and the Surrounding Areas Overseeing Military Affairs and Food Production, Director of Civil Affairs, was one of eight regional viceroys in China proper during the Qing dynasty. The Viceroy controlled Yunnan and Guizhou (Kweichow) provinces.

Viceroy of the Three Northeast Provinces

The Viceroy of the Three Northeast Provinces, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General of the Three Northeast Provinces and Surrounding Areas Overseeing Military Generals of the Three Provinces, Director of Civil Affairs of Fengtian (Manchu: dergi ilan goloi uheri kadalara amban), sometimes referred to as the Viceroy of Manchuria, was a regional viceroy in China during the Qing dynasty. It was the only regional viceroy whose jurisdiction was outside China proper. The Viceroy had control over Fengtian (present-day Liaoning), Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces in Northeast China, which was also known as Manchuria.


Zhongyuan (Chinese: 中原; pinyin: Zhōngyuán), Chungyuan, or the Central Plain, also known as Zhongtu (Chinese: 中土; pinyin: Zhōngtǔ), Chungtu or Zhongzhou (Chinese: 中州; pinyin: Zhōngzhōu), Chungchou, is the area on the lower reaches of the Yellow River which formed the cradle of Chinese civilization. It forms part of the North China Plain.

In its narrowest sense, the Central Plain covers modern-day Henan, the southern part of Hebei, the southern part of Shanxi, and the western part of Shandong province. A broader interpretation of the Central Plain's extent would add the Guanzhong plain of Shaanxi, the northwestern part of Jiangsu, and parts of Anhui and northern Hubei.

Since the beginning of recorded history, the Central Plain has been an important site for Chinese civilization.

In the pre-Qin era, present-day Luoyang and its nearby areas were considered the “Center of the World”, as the political seat of the Xia dynasty was located around Songshan and the Yi-Luo river basin.

Inscriptions on some bronze objects from this era contain references to the 'Central States' (Zhongguo), 'Eastern States', or 'Southern States'. This indicates that the Central Plain, which was referred to as the 'Central States' in these inscriptions, was considered to occupy the center of the world.

In a broader context, the term Zhongyuan refers to Chinese civilization and China proper, regions directly governed by centralized Chinese governments and dynasties. However, when used to describe the Chinese civilization, Zhongyuan often connotes Huaxia and Han Chinese cultural dominance.

The Dungans, who are Chinese descendants of Hui ethnicity, residing in Central Asia and Russia, are referred to using terms linked to Zhongyuan.

Standard Mandarin
Hanyu Pinyinzhōngguó běntǔ
Bopomofoㄓㄨㄙ ㄍㄨㄛˊ ㄅㄣˇ ㄊㄨˇ
Wade–GilesChung1 Kuo2 Pen3 T'u3
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu Pinyinzhōngguó běnbù
Bopomofoㄓㄨㄙ ㄍㄨㄛˊ ㄅㄣˇ ㄅㄨˋ
Wade–GilesChung1 Kuo2 Pen3 Pu4
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu Pinyinshíbā xíngshěng
Bopomofoㄕˊ ㄅㄚ ㄒㄧㄥˊ ㄕㄥˇ
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu Pinyinguānnèi shíbā shěng
Bopomofoㄍㄨㄢ ㄋㄟˋ ㄕˊ ㄅㄚ ㄕㄥˇ
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu Pinyinnèidì shíbā shěng
Bopomofoㄋㄟˋ ㄉㄧˋ ㄕˊ ㄅㄚ ㄕㄥˇ
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu Pinyinzhōngyuán hàndì
Bopomofoㄓㄨㄙ ㄧㄨㄢˊ ㄏㄢˋ ㄉㄧˋ

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